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Making news relevant through local communities in Xiengkho, Lao PDR

People from Xiengkho District in the province of Huaphan of Lao PDR are now talking more news and sharing wider ideas and thoughts, thanks to their first community radio ‘Xiengkhor Radio’, supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

Installed satellite disk and receiver in order to pick up radio programs from central studio in Vientiane. (©Lao National Radio)

Installed FM studio including programme production, editing, storage and on air equipment. (©Lao National Radio)

Technical training for station’s staff on how to manage studio and transmitter. There are 5 staff working at Xiengkhor’s Information, culture and tourism office. (©Lao National Radio)

Located in the northern part of the country, the isolated Xiengkhor District is one of the 47 poorest districts and telecommunication services are under development.

In the past years, the local Xiengkho people received news mainly from Lao National Radio (LNR) on the shortwave band with a poor sound quality due to its mountainous location, mostly focusing on events and issues related to the capital city and produced in Lao language, which is only understood by certain sectors of the population.

For the first time, many people have access to information related to their lives.

The Xiengkh Radio started to broadcast the daily programmes in March 2013. Themes cover culture, climate, health, agriculture and also mini radio drama writings and interactive programmes. For the first time, many people have access to information related to their lives.

A building of the former district's Information, Culture and Tourism Office was turned into the Xiengkhor District’s FM station. Rooms were arranged, a new electric system for the radio station and FM station equipment was set up and a satellite disk was installed to pick up the Lao National Radio programmes.

Once the whole structure was ready, a team of volunteers from LNR organized and delivered two five-day training workshops where 33 radio reporters and journalists from the Xiengkho district were trained on programme production, journalism skills and technical operation and maintenance of radio equipment. The training courses focused on how to write news, feature stories and reports, prepare interviews and use the radio facilities. In order to increase the flow of the news in the district, they were encouraged to write about current affairs, agriculture and education promoting their participation. In addition, the participants practiced to produce totally three programmes, 15 minute each, during the training course.

Radio has become one of their “every day companions”.

The skill improvement activities and the integration of interactive radio programmes aimed to empower radio managers to deliver accurate and relevant information to the public and open up new spaces for rural and ethnic people to make their voices to be heard.

According to the project’s monitoring, the radio station is having satisfying results. Locals are actively involved in the activities and listeners have expressed their satisfaction with a radio that has become one of their “every day companions”.

By Lucía Pérez Sanagustín and Rojana Manowalailao, UNESCO Bangkok